IT SEEMS that every week state leaders find ways to remind us that the "shared sacrifice" preached during tough times is meant to be shared by everyone but them.

This week, that reminder came from John Cavanaugh.

Never heard of him? Well, he's chancellor - a title commonly applied to the head of countries - of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

Seems like a nice guy. And, no doubt, running 14 universities, including West Chester and Cheyney, is a tough job, especially when Gov. Corbett wants to cut their funding in half.

(Penn State, Temple, Pitt and Lincoln also get some state funding, which Corbett also wants to cut in half, but they're not under Cavanaugh's chancelloring.)

Cavanaugh spoke at Monday's Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon in Harrisburg. He made a case for state schools: They're cheap - in-state tuition is $5,804; they have 120,000 students, 90 percent of whom are Pennsylvanians, 80 percent of whom stay in the state after graduation.

During his remarks, a colleague slipped me a note: "He knows no one here can restore his funding, right?"

But Cavanaugh did not attack Corbett or even question the proposed $600 million-plus cuts, which he said provide "an opportunity" to talk up state schools.

During a Q&A he got another opportunity.

He was asked if he'd voluntarily take a pay cut and urge other administrators to do so since so many other public employees face salary reductions or freezes.

He danced.

He said that his salary is set by his system's Board of Governors. Not his fault.

The board, by the way, is a bunch of pols and political appointees. The chairman is Ken Jarin, appointed by Gov. Ed Rendell, a partner in Rendell's law firm and a longtime, big-time Democratic fundraiser.

The board includes state reps and senators, a former top aide to former Sen. Vince Fumo, a national Republican committeewoman, oh, and Corbett, which might help explain Cavanaugh's reluctance to tee off.

Cavanaugh is Pennsylvania's highest-paid state official: $327,500.

That's less than Philly's "Queen" Arlene Ackerman's $348,000 and far less than Penn State Prez Graham Spanier's $800,000 (PSU is not state-owned).

Don't such salaries prove that education at all levels is in dire need of more tax dollars? (I'm being sarcastic.)

Point is, Cavanaugh's pay approaches twice the governor's, and 1,300 of Cavanaugh's non-union employees just got raises costing about $6 million.

Would it kill him to suggest that, yes, in times such as these, in the face of pay cuts to so many and tuition hikes for so many students, it would be reasonable for a lot of us to do with somewhat less?

Doesn't matter if such action solves the state's fiscal woes or not; what matters is creating some semblance of shared sacrifice by all.

Same goes for the Guv and the Legislature.

Two weeks ago, touring a Clairton manufacturing plant, Corbett was asked if he and lawmakers and their staffs should take pay cuts.

The Guv, who wants a 4 percent cut from unionized state workers and a one-year freeze from public-school employees, ducked.

"I'm not going to answer that question," Corbett told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I promised the unions we would negotiate in good faith."

Yeah, see, unions have nothing to do with your salary, lawmakers' salaries or staff salaries.

(The Tribune-Review last week reported that the Legislature's payroll grew 22 percent to $119.5 million between 2005 and 2010, nearly double the rate of inflation.)

Again, how hard is it to make some effort suggesting some willingness to share in whatever pain's ahead?

And don't get me started on the Legislature: automatic annual pay hikes regardless of performance; primo health care for which they pay nothing or next to it; $188 million socked away in an us-first fund.

Yes, some lawmakers give up their raises, pay their own health care and oppose slush funds - just not enough of them; just not their leaders.

Our leaders need to learn that leadership is more than position. It's also action.

Send email to baerj@phillynews.com.

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